Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

THE END                                  341


of director of certain temple properties back in his own province. There
was a superstition that when an official was seriously ill, resignation
from politics could help cure his illness and prolong his life. This is
t based on the very sensible assumption that politics and robbery of the
people are almost synonymous in God's eyes. Retirement from politics
was like a promise to reform. Su Tungpo mentioned that he had heard
of such cures and said he would like to try it.

His illness dragged on after his arrival at Changchow. He never re-
covered his appetite and for about a month remained most of the time
in bed. He had a feeling that his end was coming. Besides his own
immediate family, his good friend Chien Shihshiung saw him almost
every other day. Chien was a friend who had kept on sending him
letters and medicine while he was in the south. Whenever Su Tungpo
felt better, he would ask his son Kuo to write a note to ask Chien to
come over for a chat. One day when Chien came, he found him lying
in his bed unable to sit up.

"I'm so happy that I have returned alive all the way from the south,"
said Su. "What is difficult for me to bear is the fact that I have not
been able to see Tseyu on my return. I haven't seen him since we
parted on the coast of Luichow."

After a while he said again: "I completed the three books on the
Analects, the Boo^ of History, and the Boo\ of Changes while I was
overseas. I want to confide them to your care. Keep the manuscripts
safe without showing them to other people. Thirty years from now,
they will be greatly appreciated."

Then he was going to open his trunks but could not find the keys.
Chien comforted him by saying that he was going to get well and that
there was no hurry. During those four weeks Chien came constantly
to see him. Su's first and last joys were in his writing. When he showed
Chien the different poems and prose that he had written while in the
south, his eyes brightened and he seemed to forget everything else. On
certain days he was still able to write short notes and postscripts,
including a postscript in praise of cinnamon wine, which he gave to
Chien, knowing that his friend would treasure it carefully.

On July 15 his illness took a decided turn for the worse. That night
he had high fever, and the next morning his gums were bleeding and
he felt extremely weak. He analysed his own symptoms and believed
that the illness came from jehtu, a general term describing infection.
He believed there was no cure for it except letting the sickness run its
course; there was no use meddling with different kinds of medicine.
He refused food, and took only soup of ginseng, Indian bread, and
black leek. The latter was made into a thick soup, and whenever he felt
thirsty, he drank a little of it. In a letter to Chien he said: "According
to Chuangtse, there is no such thing as governing a country; one should